IPL 4 and why it failed

IPL 4 started sometimes in March, CSK have won, Dhoni’s luck held and the carnival came to an end sometimes in May.  Over 120 brands were involved in this year’s IPL, chasing a dwindling audience. For the first time stadiums had unsold seats in T20 matches.  For the first time when the TV ratings started to slip, they kept on slipping. Something went seriously wrong with this years’ IPL.

True the quality of cricket was not up to scratch, true that the matches lacked fizzle, but the formula was the same. The same carnivals feel, the same cheer leading squads, the same loud IPL bugle, and yet the fizz went out.

This time though there was one additional factor that was missing in last three IPLs. This year there was Twitter, and the IPL was promoting twitter in a big way. The commentators were tweeting, the players were tweeting, and mercifully the viewers’ too were tweeting. Twitter possibly is the best way to know, what may have gone wrong. I pulled out the following as what was trending on Twitter through out the IPL 4

Trend 1: The biggest trend was on team branding and team fandom. The most obvious players moved out their respective teams and donned new colours were a big challenge for the viewers. People actively commented on the difficulty they faced in following their favourite players. Even the new captains were a big issue. The team owners too did not do much to increase their fan base. This year the engagement of the city with their teams was at a low. This is a prime reason why many seats were empty in stadium

Trend 2: Lalit Modi was certainly missed by the twitterati. There were questions on scheduling the matches, there were questions on ability to create and sustain hype, and certainly the pizzazz was missing from this years’ IPL. Schedule of This years’ IPL came under very harsh scrutiny by the twitterati. Lalit Modi was generally hailed as the true hero of IPL!

Trend 3: The second most comments were on the fairness of matches. This trend though is a little complex to analyze, as losing teams fans could always question the results. Yet there was a pattern to a large number of matches. The supposedly weaker team won from the supposedly larger team. The fact the RCB and CSK will make to finals and CSK will win was doing rounds on Twitter for a long time

Trend 4: The quality of cricket that was dished out was an issue. Though some of the new players had sporadic following, driven by how they played. Paul Valthaty, Rahul Sharma, Bharat Chipli, Badrinath were some players who gained sustainable fan following. And despite the rise of a few new stars, the quality of game was always criticized. If the league has to have a future, it needs to work hard on improving the quality of the game

Trend 5: If there was one player who dominated the Tweet world, that it was Chris Gayle. RCB post tells that he hit an astonishing 100 fours and sixes in the tournament. Since the time he came, his murderous assault on bowlers, and his miserly spell in bowling was always the toast of twitter world. Clearly the WI loss was IPL gain

Trend 6: Individual teams had very poor fan following, and that is a clear indicator of low engagement of teams with twitter population. Mumbai Indians has just 185 followers, Delhi has 4000, and the new comer Pune has 3000. KKR wins this hands down with over 44000 followers. CSK has 13000, and RCB 18000 followers. Looks like the average twitterati is not keen to connect with the official team pages

The Twitter analysis has clear pointers. If the brand has to thrive, it has to organize the event better, has to improve the quality of game, and above all be transparent.

The novelty is now over, and the thrill has been missing. IPL5 has survival issues at stake


We have the cup, do we have the buzz?

As Dhoni swung the ball high over the bowlers head and twirled his bat after hitting the shot, India achieved its 28 year long dream of recapturing the cricket world cup. The nation erupted in joy, and the party lasted the whole night. The party actually is still on, and IPL 4 may just bask in the post effect glory.

With India setting up a semifinal clash with Pakistan, and then setting up a final clash with Sri Lanka the advertising fraternity was presented with a tailor made opportunity. Here was an event that was galvanizing the whole nation, was promising sky high viewership and could be remembered by the nation for many years to come. The opportunity was grabbed by the eager advertisers, but did it work for them?

But first, what has baffled me is the TRP data. Take the semifinal clash between India and Pakistan. The interest was so high that the nation declared it as a holiday. Offices closed half day, giant screens were put up in market places, offices which did not shut down, organized mass viewing. India had come to a grinding halt. Streets were deserted; even the electronic shops beamed only the match on the TV sets. You could hear the roar on streets when Sehwag was murdering Gul, you could hear the roar when Tendulkar reached his 50, and you could even hear the silence when Yuvraj bagged the dubious glolden duck!

Everyone knew that the nation was glued, except the rating agencies. The match had a TVR of 22. They would like us to believe that this rating broke all records, and had set Tendulkarish high benchmark that will not be breached in a hurry.

Seriously 22! So what were the other 78 watching? Soaps? Dexter? Movies? If this is what the Indo Pak match delivered as TRP, than either there is something wrong with us as a nation, or something is wrong with the measurement system. My hunch is that it is more the latter than the former.

We did go on to win the World Cup, and expectedly the TRP didn’t cross the Indo Pak level, but the whole nation came out to party, and they partied through the night.

May be going into future we need to apply a factor of 4 to every TRP that the rating agencies release. There is no other way to explain the levels that the agencies are telling us.

The channels too leveraged the rush very well, with rates crossing 2Mn for every 10 sec. Brands willingly shelled out 6Mn for a spot. In a cricket match about 200 ads are telecast. The sheer commerce of it is staggering.

The brands though need to look beyond commerce. Did the commercial create the desired impact? Did it persuade the buyers to change their behavior? Not many brands may have succeeded in that endeavour. Possibly the most successful brand would be Nike, who managed to make their campaign into a sort of anthem. Bleed Blue became the clarion call, and it united the cricket lovers across the world. It did end up trumping the Change the Game campaign. May be a Sony, may be a Revital, but beyond that the ads remained mere intrusion that the viewer had to suffer through, rather than watch and enjoy.

India has won the world cup, and in the process has demonstrated that rules of engagement need to change. The old measurement system needs overhaul, and chasing most expensive ad slots may not guarantee impact


Future of IPL

When I did my last article about IPL, it looked like everyone wanted to be a part of the IPL gravy train. Then the controversy broke over the Kochi bid and a string of bad news about the administration that ran the event, and even more damaging reports of financial improprietary. To top it, there are even rumors that the matches were fixed and nothing seemed right about IPL. Expectedly media went to town debating the future of IPL. If media owned IPL, it would have been shut down, and the entire cricketing fraternity made to disown the game.
The real inkling of what the future of IPL may hold was answered on the evening when the final was being played. The stadium was packed to the gills, the noise was deafening, the players had the intensity and cricket being played was top class.
So in midst of the entire circus that seemed to say that IPL is over, and there may not be IPL4, the average cricket viewers have given a very clear indicator that IPL is here to stay.
Are there lessons for us to draw from the mess? What is it that is keeping the event alive? What is it that will keep the brand IPL going from strength to strength? This mess of IPL may give us clear answers in managing a brand in crisis
Continue to build credibility: the real reason why IPL is able to draw the crowd into stadiums is the belief that cricket on display is fair and is played with the right passion. It is clear in this moment of crisis that the game is not owned by the administrators or team owners or even the board, the game is owned by the players. It is the credibility of superstars of cricket that is keeping the game alive. So when the game’s biggest icon says, the game will recover the whole cricket loving public agrees
Be authentic: Any brand to create a long term following needs to be honest and open about self. The consumers constantly search for experiences that are real and authentic. The real reason why the brand IPL took off was because it promised an authentic experience. There is no doubt that the current spate of bad news will affect the following of the game in the long run. It definitely will survive this crisis, but recovery from another round of bad news may not be swift and painless
Create high standards around the brand: while credibility and authenticity are the tactics to build a successful brand strategy, there is no going away from offering extremely high standard quality and service. The more the consumers feel that the brand takes itself seriously, the more they would trust and follow a brand. High standard of service and quality is the best way to generate a buzz. It’s not the fan pages on Facebook, or the blog on website that creates the buzz, the brand generates it by offering high quality
Involve the followers: IPL is a unique brand where the users interact with the brand for just 45 days in a year. For the rest of the year, it is a dormant brand. This is a very challenging situation for the brand, especially when it is bogged down by scandals of all kinds. This becomes critical for the brand to constantly ‘hear’ from its followers and make a virtue of it. There is no better way to fight bad news than to generate good news of your own.
Well may be the league will have to put its plan to get 300 brands in its fold for a hold. May be just for a while.
Published at http://www.mediaworldbuzz.com

Sports is bigger then Movie Industry

The challenges that face sports as a brand are very different from any other product. Suppose you bought a product and didn’t like the quality, you can get it fixed, or exchanged. Now if you bought a ticket to a sporting event and didn’t like the quality of sport being played, there is no refund that you will get. And if the result is not to your liking, than all you can do is suffer. There are no guarantees, no consumer courts, and at the end of it, nothing to show. And therefore marketing is a very difficult concept to grasp for sports

Yet sport is a multibillion dollar industry. There are no authentic figures, but it is upwards of $200Bn globally. This makes it much larger than say movie industry or music industry, larger than possibly both combined. In developed markets sport contributes between 2-3% of GDP of the country. By implication than sport can only be next to tourism as an industry.

What makes this an extremely challenging service to market is people’s enthusiasm for sports. People follow sports as a religion, and the sport stars as gods. And despite a Tiger Woods or Ashley Cole, there are more role models than fallen angels. It has long been believed that generally men follow sports with much greater involvement than women. I am not sure if that is necessarily true. There are two kinds of sports followers, one who is rigorous team sports enthusiasts and who follow team sports. These are people who drive the following of cricket and football and hockey. Then there is the relaxed individual sports followers who love golf, and shooting and snooker and chess. In both the sport there is no reason for women to not get involved. It’s less of a sport and more of a cultural thing. As the culture evolves, women power will grow in sport fandom.

Sport has existed in culture for generations. From eons back rulers used sport both as a tool to test human endurance and to create a feeling of superiority between kingdoms. Somewhere along the way sport started to merge with entertainment. This too is a fairly old trend. Now in modern age, its entertainment that has become the prime driver behind sport. And with people having a far greater involvement with sport, brands have leveraged them to create engagement with their consumers. This merger of human endeavour, with need for entertainment has made sports sponsorship a very sophisticated service. And with media getting fragmented sports sponsorship is possibly the best bet marketer has to aggregate eyeballs.

So what are the challenges that the marketers will face in coming years?

One big issue that sports marketers need to address is kids dwindling interest in sports. This will have a large implication on future of sports marketing. It is in marketer’s interest to work at grassroots level and keep kids engaged from an early age

The other big issue that sports marketers need to invest in is measurement of effort. This will go a long way in keeping the brands interested in sports

Sports marketers also need to expand their ambit. In India cricket dwarfs every other sport is partly also because brand marketers only market cricket. If the sports marketing pie has to be increased than sports marketers will have to ensure they expand their basket

And finally in future consumers will question the kind of brands they see involved in sports. Alcohol, tobacco and fast food brands will be seen with increased skepticism and they might find their investment not giving them optimum return

In these days of fragmented media and widening consumer power, there is no better way of creating enduring consumer engagement than through sports

(part of this article was published in Business and Economy Magazine’s March 10 Issue)